Usually standing just out of frame - organising, curating and creating - Raytus Gassner and Mark Tierney have spent the past twenty years establishing two of Galway’s most beloved businesses; Yes Flowers and The Sheep.
In order to bring the guys out of the shadows and into the limelight, we thought it was about time we finally met the makers. So, on one fine day, we stopped by their exquisite Silverstrand home to chat about their journey so far, the essence of floristry and how working in a flower shop has set the scene for their relationship since day one.
From the moment we sat down together in the pristine surrounds of their open plan living area - sinking into the plush cushions and soaking up the understated splendor of their home - the genuine fondness and appreciation the pair share for their work was clear. This passion is deeply rooted in the snowy Alps of Liechtenstein, where Raytus first began his love affair with floristry. Growing up surrounded by gentian, edelweiss and other traditional wildflowers, it wasn’t long before a 10-year-old Raytus was helping out in the flower shops he was once bowled-over by. Nine years later, he had completed his extensive training in Switzerland and opened his very own shop in Liechtenstein.
After twenty memorable years, Raytus decided to make the move to Galway in 2001 and open Yes Flowers on Middle Street, which just so happens to be when himself and Mark first met. Then working as a chef, Mark would spend every free moment he had dropping into the shop, getting to know the business and gradually becoming infected with Raytus’ radiant passion for all things floristry. By the time the first Christmas rolled around, they knew they were in it together.
Moving from Middle Street to Cross Street and now firmly planted at 5 Eglinton Street, Mark and Raytus’ relationship has grown, evolved and blossomed alongside the shop. Despite all the ups and downs that go with running a business, the pair have managed to avoid all potential disagreements because, as Mark so eloquently puts it, “Life is too nice to fight your way through it.”
As Yes Flowers grew in popularity amongst locals and tourists alike, they spotted a sheep-sized gap in the market that would be filled by their concept-driven shop and studio at 4 Mainguard Street. Now in its third summer, The Sheep represents the personality, quality and authenticity of the west through the familiar character of the humble sheep. Within the store, you’ll find high-quality, locally produced wool and sheepskin products that serve as a charming memento from our little corner of the world. They might just have some new products in the pipeline, so keep those eyes peeled!
Having become known for their tasteful arrangements and unique style of floristry, each and every stem is perfectly placed to fulfill a purpose. Raytus always says that “wherever you place a rose, you have to imagine it would have grown there.” That, coupled with an expert knowledge of what flowers compliment each other, creates comfortable bouquets that reflect the reality in nature. Mark points out that, “without really realising it, people see comfort in things that are as they’re supposed to be.”
This rings true across every element of their business. The flower shop is laid out to follow a natural progression through the store, emitting an aura of affluence, elegance and inspiration. Mark and Raytus are keenly aware that each customer that comes into the shop has different needs, different associations and different emotions. “In a flower shop, you’re selling flowers but you’re dealing with emotions,” Mark says, “It’s either love, ecology, sympathy, gratitude - there’s always an emotion attached.”
Mark and Raytus believe that “as a florist, you have to be able to do all things for all people.” Where some young fella might want to be in and out in a matter of minutes, an older client may require more care, but the magic really happens when they become a part of someone’s story. You’d be surprised at how many customers come into the shop as shy kids buying a corsage for their Debs date, only to return again for each and every milestone in their lives, building a faithful friendship. Mark and Raytus are there for birthdays, christmases, engagements, weddings, newborns, Mother’s Days and eventually they’re there for the funerals too.
“It’s one of those jobs where you have to laugh and you have to cry with customers,” Mark reminisces. “You go through the highs and the lows with them. You have beautiful stories but you also have really sad stories and you live through these milestones with people. It’s a very unique job. As a florist, you have a very private and intimate relationship with people.”
As well as punctuating the moments of everyday life with a beautiful bouquet, they also add colour and vibrancy to the city’s many crevices with bespoke floral arches. You’ve more than likely taken a snap under The Dough Bro’s seasonal arch, or enjoyed a romantic meal by Gemelle’s whimsical climbing frame. Originally intended for curb appeal, these eye-catching displays have generated their fair share of excitement while bringing a more organic element into the urban landscape.
An understated pair with a flair for the extraordinary, when Mark and Raytus say they’re better at planning other people’s celebrations than their own, they mean it! When the pair got married themselves, it was quite the lowkey occasion. Luring their nearest and dearest to an afternoon tea with a difference, the pair tied the knot without any bells and whistles.
Infatuated with the unique beauty each season brings, the pair are kept on their feet all year round which is why once the initial shock of the Covid shutdown subsided, they got the chance to rediscover their own little nest by the sea. “We fell in love with our home again, and for those ten weeks we found a new home outside of the shop.” Since reopening in June, they’ve observed a swell of good energy and generosity because in a time where people feel they can do nothing to help, sending a bouquet of flowers can make a world of difference to someone’s day.
Now preparing for their longest season of the year, Christmas is an incredibly special time for them both. Having grown up on a Christmas tree plantation in the snowy Alps, the season serves as a sentimental reminder of home for Raytus. A time for full-circle reflection, he’s grown from a young boy bringing flowers home to his mammy to a highly-sought after florist in the space of forty years.
Between decorating the streets of Galway and beyond, planning weddings all year round and running two successful businesses, we’re surprised the pair have time to come up for air. Driven by their shared grá for flowers and an ambition to let every stem tell its own story, each bouquet they put together is worth its weight in gold. Whether it's to mark a special occasion, show someone you're thinking of them or to brighten up your home, a little something from Yes Flowers always has the desired effect.